2021 NBA Playoffs Gamethread

coremiller

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Absolutely unreal. The closest thing I can compare it to (in terms of a center being blocked on a clear dunk, in a huge moment) is LeBron's block on Tiago Splitter in the 2013 finals, but this was a bigger moment and Splitter is not Ayton.
Also on the Splitter block, LeBron had plenty of time to rotate into the lane, set his feet, and time his jump to meet Splitter. Giannis was guarding the ball-handler, was facing away from Ayton, had to spin around, leap across the lane, and then jump off one foot and meet Ayton at the top of the square. Waaay higher degree of difficulty. I've watched it like 20 times now and it gets even more amazing every time.
 

ElUno20

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Lebron chased Iggy down from half court, in a game 7, in a tense 4th with the game in balance. Also, he had BOTH sides covered in case there was a reverse layup attempt. I love giannis but that block is 1b to Lebron's 1a
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Lebron chased Iggy down from half court, in a game 7, in a tense 4th with the game in balance. Also, he had BOTH sides covered in case there was a reverse layup attempt. I love giannis but that block is 1b to Lebron's 1a
Yeah I don't think anyone can argue that Giannis block was more impactful than that chase down for all the reasons you cite. However the Giannis play may be more athletic and that too is saying something given LeBron's play.

SVP said it on SC - only one person on the planet could have made that play. And he did it.
 

BigSoxFan

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Yeah I don't think anyone can argue that Giannis block was more impactful than that chase down for all the reasons you cite. However the Giannis play may be more athletic and that too is saying something given LeBron's play.

SVP said it on SC - only one person on the planet could have made that play. And he did it.
How dare you...

 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Actually I was incorrect. It was Legler who said it. No shade towards Time Lord but he will have to get one in the finals next spring to equal Giannis.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Jrue can put people to sleep. Paul seems so worn right now but Jrue is also a terrible matchup for him
People love to criticize Jrue when he isn’t putting the ball in the basket. The thing is......even on those nights when he’s clanging 3’s he’s still so impactful on the other end, much of which has to affect his offensive output. He’s been very good for these Bucks.
 

BaseballJones

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Chris Paul game log:

G1: 32 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers
G2: 23 points, 8 assists, 6 turnovers
G3: 19 points, 9 assists, 4 turnovers
G4: 10 points, 7 assists, 5 turnovers

Declining throughout the series. Just SSS statistical noise or is he worn down?
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Chris Paul game log:

G1: 32 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers
G2: 23 points, 8 assists, 6 turnovers
G3: 19 points, 9 assists, 4 turnovers
G4: 10 points, 7 assists, 5 turnovers

Declining throughout the series. Just SSS statistical noise or is he worn down?
Ringer piece from before Game 4 about Bud’s adjustment to slow down Paul and tire him out by having Holiday hound him as much as possible:
The glaring flaw of Milwaukee’s initial defensive strategy wasn’t that it allowed the future Hall of Fame point guard too many opportunities to take bread-and-butter midrange jumpers, but that it was a style of coverage Paul barely felt at all. It was too easy for him to dial up a Brook Lopez switch and then take his time, easing through possessions while Lopez stood back on his heels. Budenholzer and his staff scrapped that scheme going into Game 2 and answered Paul’s dominance by putting Jrue Holiday in a state of constant pursuit.

The series has been different ever since. On Phoenix’s second possession of that game, Holiday picked up Paul so early and so aggressively that he had to turn to protect his dribble and effectively post Holiday up just to get the ball across the half-court line. Paul couldn’t go a few steps without his shadow lunging at the ball, disrupting his rhythm. Even consecutive screens didn’t help; Holiday wedged himself between Paul and the first, completely neutralizing its impact, and then chased him over another, causing the best point guard of his generation to dribble the ball off his own foot.

“[I’m] really just trying to speed him up, and trying to get him as tired as possible,” Holiday said after Game 3.
https://www.theringer.com/2021/7/14/22576438/chris-paul-milwaukee-bucks-nba-finals
 

BaseballJones

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Ah yes I did notice that Paul had to essentially back him down Magic Johnson-style. Good info. Thanks.

So it would seem that Phoenix needs to come up with a counter because Milwaukee certainly has found something there.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Chris Paul game log:

G1: 32 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers
G2: 23 points, 8 assists, 6 turnovers
G3: 19 points, 9 assists, 4 turnovers
G4: 10 points, 7 assists, 5 turnovers

Declining throughout the series. Just SSS statistical noise or is he worn down?
Jrue has been incredible this series but Paul didn’t just wear down after a couple days off. There is a chance it’s an age thing when you simply don’t have your legs on a given night.....or simply laying an egg on the road which certainly isn’t unheard of....but I’m leaning toward there being a health/illness problem with Paul last night as he was pulled very early and then again in the 2Q as well. It wasn’t his normal substitution pattern which raises an eyebrow that there was something more going on Tyra goes far beyond statistical. Just bizarre.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Might it just be lingering covid-19 after affects? Getting fatigued easier maybe?
It’s definitely possible. As I said in the game thread when someone mentioned his 1H minutes there was something abnormal about his substitution pattern, his energy, his play, etc.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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He came into the playoffs with a banged-up shoulder, he has torn ligaments in his hand, he had covid, and he's 36. Gonna take a superhuman effort to get back on form.
 

HomeRunBaker

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He came into the playoffs with a banged-up shoulder, he has torn ligaments in his hand, he had covid, and he's 36. Gonna take a superhuman effort to get back on form.
2 games ago (after the shoulder, after the hand, after Covid, and while still 36) he was the best basketball player in the world and The Finals MVP favorite by a large margin (-250). What changed in the last 4 days? Delayed Covid effect maybe, I don’t know....but all those other issues were still there last Friday too and he was fantastic.

Anyway, this series should be all but over instead G5 will make for great tv! Love this series!!
 
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Senator Donut

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This is myth of the predetermined outcome stuff, but the blown call on Booker’s sixth foul allowed the Suns to stay under the limit and resulted in Giannis drawing two non-shooting fouls in crunch time, which I think the Bucks converted for two points after the side out of bounds.
 

chilidawg

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This is myth of the predetermined outcome stuff, but the blown call on Booker’s sixth foul allowed the Suns to stay under the limit and resulted in Giannis drawing two non-shooting fouls in crunch time, which I think the Bucks converted for two points after the side out of bounds.
Given Giannis FT shooting that's not a bad outcome for the Bucks.
 

TripleOT

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So does Coach Bud get credit for switching up the defense on Paul, or is he an idiot to even try playing Lopez in p/r drop coverage against Paul and his bread and butter mid range pullup, which he used repeatedly to destroy the Clippers?

The obvious scheme to slow the Suns is to dog CP3 with Jrue, and use multiple wing defenders on Booker, with Giannis as a help defender, while playing small as much as possible, so Lopez doesn’t get abused.

As long as Ayton doesn’t feast too much in the paint and on the offensive glass, there’s little reason to play Lopez. If would be good for the Bucks if Tucker could remember how to make a corner three.
 

Swedgin

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Jrue has been incredible this series but Paul didn’t just wear down after a couple days off. There is a chance it’s an age thing when you simply don’t have your legs on a given night.....or simply laying an egg on the road which certainly isn’t unheard of....but I’m leaning toward there being a health/illness problem with Paul last night as he was pulled very early and then again in the 2Q as well. It wasn’t his normal substitution pattern which raises an eyebrow that there was something more going on Tyra goes far beyond statistical. Just bizarre.
His handle seemed off to me, maybe he tweaked or aggravated his hand.

But it could definitely age/the toll of Jrue. I remember listening to Barkley talking about aging in the NBA on a podcast. According to him, it was not that his ceiling was lower, but he could not get there as consistently and when he was off the lows were lower.
 
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Swedgin

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So does Coach Bud get credit for switching up the defense on Paul, or is he an idiot to even try playing Lopez in p/r drop coverage against Paul and his bread and butter mid range pullup, which he used repeatedly to destroy the Clippers?

The obvious scheme to slow the Suns is to dog CP3 with Jrue, and use multiple wing defenders on Booker, with Giannis as a help defender, while playing small as much as possible, so Lopez doesn’t get abused.

As long as Ayton doesn’t feast too much in the paint and on the offensive glass, there’s little reason to play Lopez. If would be good for the Bucks if Tucker could remember how to make a corner three.
Playing Lopez and having Jrue hound Paul are not mutually exclusive.

I did not see Lopez going full drop early in the series. He was coming out on Paul and contesting. However, his handle/contest hand seemed off.

The Bucks are not deep enough to DNP Lopez. Who else is taking those 25-30 minutes? If anything I think giving Lopez some early post touches to see if you can get some early fouls on Ayton is a smart play. The Bucks have a clear size advantage this series and that is something they have exploited and should continue to do so.

The adjustment was putting Holiday on Paul instead of Booker. As others have noted, this wears Paul down but it also means the Suns are getting into their half court offense with much less time on the shot clock. That matters because if the Suns do get a favorable switch matchup, it reduces the amount of time the mismatched defender is stuck on an island. It is one thing for Portis or Lopez to stay in front of Booker/Paul for 3-4 seconds - 14 seconds is a whole other thing.
 

TripleOT

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Playing Lopez and having Jrue hound Paul are not mutually exclusive.

I did not see Lopez going full drop early in the series. He was coming out on Paul and contesting. However, his handle/contest hand seemed off.

The Bucks are not deep enough to DNP Lopez. Who else is taking those 25-30 minutes? If anything I think giving Lopez some early post touches to see if you can get some early fouls on Ayton is a smart play. The Bucks have a clear size advantage this series and that is something they have exploited and should continue to do so.

The adjustment was putting Holiday on Paul instead of Booker. As others have noted, this wears Paul down but it also means the Suns are getting into their half court offense with much less time on the shot clock. That matters because if the Suns do get a favorable switch matchup, it reduces the amount of time the mismatched defender is stuck on an island. It is one thing for Portis or Lopez to stay in front of Booker/Paul for 3-4 seconds - 14 seconds is a whole other thing.
The 19 minutes Lopez played last night is about as much as they should play him. If DiVincenzo was available, I’d be ok with Giannis and Portia splitting the 48 big minutes, but I’d rather have Lopez play some minutes instead of Teague. Lopez is at about 23 mpg in the finals, down 7 minutes from earlier in the playoffs.
 

Kliq

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The X factor on offense for the Bucks (and perhaps the series) is Giannis' passing. I've noticed in the last few games he has been very good at recognizing when he has the ball when Phoenix is "building a wall" to stop him, and he makes a quick decision to get the ball out of his hands and swinging in to another player, who can attack a defense that has already begun its rotation to stop Giannis from getting to the rim. Not all of these plays have led to assists (he had 8 last night and 6 in Game 3) but it gets the ball moving and leads to generally good looks for his teammates. He's also done a good job finding guys like Lopez in the dunker spot when he does get closer to the basket and players rotate over to wall him off.

You really can't be one-dimensional and win an NBA title, no matter how good you are at one thing, NBA defenses are good enough over the course of a series to stop you from just doing that one thing over and over again. I think Giannis unlocking more playmaking skills is a key way to differentiate the Milwaukee offense and create a more sustainable way to score, while also instilling confidence in his teammates and role players. He isn't LeBron or Luka, but he has shown to be smart enough with his decision-making to punish teams who try and build a wall. I've selected some nice plays below:

In this one, he brings the ball up and catches Crowder cheating to try and get ready to cover for Craig if Giannis blows by him; Giannis quickly moves the ball to Middleton, who is able to attack the close-out and get a layup.
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=164&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Middleton 2' Driving Layup (9 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 2 AST)&sct=plot

A different look here; Connaughton sets a screen and Ayton is very concerned about Giannis so he doesn't move a muscle as Paul tries to fight through the screen. Connaughton leaks out and Giannis quickly finds him for a three before Paul can scramble back:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=433&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Connaughton 26' 3PT Jump Shot (3 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 6 AST)&sct=plot

In transition, Giannis gets the ball and Ayton and Crowder immediately move to the paint to the protect the rim, and Giannis recongizes the rotation almost before it even begins, and finds Connaughton for a wide open three:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=612&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Connaughton 24' 3PT Running Jump Shot (11 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 8 AST)&sct=plot

Finally, here is getting into the paint; Ayton once again sticks to him like glue and ignores the fact that Lopez has already gotten behind him. Giannis finds Lopez in the dunker spot for an easy two:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=21&GameID=0042000403&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Lopez 2' Reverse Layup (2 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 2 AST)&sct=plot
 

radsoxfan

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2 games ago (after the shoulder, after the hand, after Covid, and while still 36) he was the best basketball player in the world and The Finals MVP favorite by a large margin (-250). What changed in the last 4 days? Delayed Covid effect maybe, I don’t know....but all those other issues were still there last Friday too and he was fantastic.

Anyway, this series should be all but over instead G5 will make for great tv! Love this series!!
I would be mostly fluke, maybe with a little bit of age and Jrue thrown in there.

But the COVID thing is also a possibility. He had good games in the interim so hard to say for sure, but maybe his age and the COVID stuff could be catching up to him a bit.

Game 5 will be very interesting, especially how CP3 responds.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The X factor on offense for the Bucks (and perhaps the series) is Giannis' passing. I've noticed in the last few games he has been very good at recognizing when he has the ball when Phoenix is "building a wall" to stop him, and he makes a quick decision to get the ball out of his hands and swinging in to another player, who can attack a defense that has already begun its rotation to stop Giannis from getting to the rim. Not all of these plays have led to assists (he had 8 last night and 6 in Game 3) but it gets the ball moving and leads to generally good looks for his teammates. He's also done a good job finding guys like Lopez in the dunker spot when he does get closer to the basket and players rotate over to wall him off.

You really can't be one-dimensional and win an NBA title, no matter how good you are at one thing, NBA defenses are good enough over the course of a series to stop you from just doing that one thing over and over again. I think Giannis unlocking more playmaking skills is a key way to differentiate the Milwaukee offense and create a more sustainable way to score, while also instilling confidence in his teammates and role players. He isn't LeBron or Luka, but he has shown to be smart enough with his decision-making to punish teams who try and build a wall. I've selected some nice plays below:

In this one, he brings the ball up and catches Crowder cheating to try and get ready to cover for Craig if Giannis blows by him; Giannis quickly moves the ball to Middleton, who is able to attack the close-out and get a layup.
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=164&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Middleton 2' Driving Layup (9 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 2 AST)&sct=plot

A different look here; Connaughton sets a screen and Ayton is very concerned about Giannis so he doesn't move a muscle as Paul tries to fight through the screen. Connaughton leaks out and Giannis quickly finds him for a three before Paul can scramble back:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=433&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Connaughton 26' 3PT Jump Shot (3 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 6 AST)&sct=plot

In transition, Giannis gets the ball and Ayton and Crowder immediately move to the paint to the protect the rim, and Giannis recongizes the rotation almost before it even begins, and finds Connaughton for a wide open three:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=612&GameID=0042000404&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Connaughton 24' 3PT Running Jump Shot (11 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 8 AST)&sct=plot

Finally, here is getting into the paint; Ayton once again sticks to him like glue and ignores the fact that Lopez has already gotten behind him. Giannis finds Lopez in the dunker spot for an easy two:
https://www.nba.com/stats/events/?GameEventID=21&GameID=0042000403&Season=2020-21&flag=1&title=Lopez 2' Reverse Layup (2 PTS) (Antetokounmpo 2 AST)&sct=plot
Nice post. I thought the Giannis touch pass to Connaughton was a really big play, particularly since Connaughton had missed a wide-open corner three from the other side.

The other thing that GIannis has been able to do is the PnR with MIddleton (particularly on the side) that leads to wide-open shots. JVG was harping on it all night but he was correct; it doesn't look like PHO has an answer for it.
 

Devizier

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Perhaps I am easily impressed but this is just such an amazing play. The dude erases Booker and Ayton all at once. And I just read he leapt off his left leg which is the same one he injured versus Atlanta. Damn.
The anticipation on that block is insane. Reminds me of that urban legend about Wayne Gretzky’s reaction time.
 

radsoxfan

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I'll be honest, it will be a minor miracle to get these last 2-3 games in without some COVID issues given this Delta wave, travel, lack of bubble, etc.

Regardless of vaccination status, lots of positives happening in that group too now.

Are they still doing daily testing?
 

HomeRunBaker

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I'll be honest, it will be a minor miracle to get these last 2-3 games in without some COVID issues given this Delta wave, travel, lack of bubble, etc.

Regardless of vaccination status, lots of positives happening in that group too now.

Are they still doing daily testing?
This could get real ugly if they continue testing through the day of G7. Both teams and traveling parties should be forced into quarantine for the next week. It’s a small price to pay to greatly reduce the risk of Giannis, Booker, etc etc being knocked out of these playoffs. Meet quick with Paul, both sides sign off on quarantine along with no testing and let’s play ball without having to worry about it.
 

128

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I'll be honest, it will be a minor miracle to get these last 2-3 games in without some COVID issues given this Delta wave, travel, lack of bubble, etc.

Regardless of vaccination status, lots of positives happening in that group too now.

Are they still doing daily testing?
This series has been great, but I'm ready for the offseason to begin, mainly to see what the C's will do. The NBA is really dragging these Finals out, especially given that the plan, as I understand it, is to start the 2021-22 season at something close to the customary date in the fall.
 
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HomeRunBaker

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This series has been great, but I'm ready for the offseason to begin, mainly to see what the C's will do. The NBA is really dragging these Finals out, especially given that the plan, as I understand it, is to start the 2021-22 season at something close to the customary date in the fall.
They don’t really have to rush things once they get to The Finals. It is most profitable to get into the prime time slots on the highest rating nights. It isn’t affecting any teams except the two who are playing......and I doubt they mind being there.
 

128

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They don’t really have to rush things once they get to The Finals. It is most profitable to get into the prime time slots on the highest rating nights. It isn’t affecting any teams except the two who are playing......and I doubt they mind being there.
I understand the economic rationale behind the Finals schedule. I just prefer the one-game-every-two-nights routine that's common earlier in the playoffs.

Not that an extra week would make a ton of difference, but training camp is going to come up fast on PHX and Milwaukee.
 

johnmd20

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The Delta is hitting things hard. Multiple Yankees got popped. Obviously the hoops players likely have Covid.(but I am pretty sure the NBA isn't going to stop Giannis from playing) Bridgerton had to shut down because of positive tests.

This is going to be a crappy could of weeks, especially in the places where vaccinations are low.

I was supposed to go to a Bar Mitzvah tonight. My wife didn't want to go.(which I am thankful for)

We are both vaccinated but it just seems stupid to hang out with 100s of people inside, screaming and yelling. Especially because her mom is pretty sick. We're keeping it tight.
 

ifmanis5

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This series seems to be indicative of the playoffs as a whole- one team or player can look awful (or great) in one game, only to look the exact opposite the next.